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Economics and Management Research Projects: An International Journal ISSN: 2184-0309

Open Access International Journals Publisher

The Evolution of Management Theories, Philosophies and Thoughts in

Olusoji J. G., Dept. of Business Administration, University of Lagos, Lagos State, Nigeria.
Ogunkoya O.A. -, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, Nigeria
Abstract: This paper examines the evolution of management theories, philosophies and thoughts in Nigeria. It views
management as a philosophy and practice that have existed in Nigeria even prior to the industrial revolution era in
Europe. The study discusses management thought evolution in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history of
Nigeria. By relying on secondary data gathered from related literatures, the paper identifies factors influencing the
evolutionary development of Management thoughts in Nigeria which include colonialism, culture, socio-economic
thoughts, technological development and organizational size. After drawing comparisons between Western management
practice and Nigerian management culture, the study concludes that colonialism and culture are the major forces driving
the development of managerial thoughts and practice in Nigeria.
Keywords: Communality; Patronage; Indirect rule; Culture, Patrimonial Management
JEL Codes: B00; B19; B29

1. Introduction
Management has evolved and grown from virtually an
insignificant theme in the previous centuries, to one of
the most important field of study in this contemporary
world and economy. It has become an important concept
in not only business circles but also in social, economic
and political spheres. Management has also developed
into a dominant and innovative influence on which
todays society depends for substantial support and
national growth (Cole, 2004). Management can be
defined conventionally as the act, practice and science of
getting work done through people. However, real
management according to Abedi (2001) can be described
as the development of human and non-human resources
through work.
Management has distinctly developed into numerous
behaviour, operations research, human resources and
strategic management. It is a field of study that is as old
as civilization, and this is evident in the history of man
itself George, O.J et al 2012). Consequently, management
has evolved in the social, political, economic and military
lives of Nigerians prior to the colonial invasion of the
Studies on management practices in Sub- Saharan Africa
are few compared to almost any other region of the
world. Most studies have emphasized western theories
and commentaries on management and management
dynamics. These studies, however, have not reflected the
evolutionary trends and dimensions of management
thoughts and philosophies in the most populous black
nation, which are critically important to African
management (Blunt & Jones, 1997).

The study of the evolution of management in Nigeria will

add value to the already existing literatures which have
only viewed management evolution from a western
perspective (Kinggudu, 1991). Todays management
thinking has evolved from a whole range of influences
over a long period of time. By learning from the
successes and failures from the past, re-inventing the
wheel will be avoided since those who do not learn from
the past are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the
past. It is then necessary to historically trace our steps
back into our rich history and culture as suggested by
Fashoyin (2005: 66-175) that within the practices of the
past, there are lessons of history for tomorrow in a
continuous stream. We occupy but one point in this
stream. The purpose is to present the past as a prologue
to the future.
Most Management theories are based on the writings of
20th century Western scholars whose disciplinary
orientations were heavily grounded in economics and
classical sociology (Mangaliso, 2001). Their writings
depict people as being individualistic, utility maximizing,
and transaction-oriented. Theories of management
based on these assumptions frequently lead to
mechanistic portrayals of human behaviour that largely
ignore cultural influences and social differences ( George,
Owoyemi & Okanlawon, 2012).
The reality is that people are not just economic beings;
they are also social and communal beings, and are often
influenced more by emotions than presumed logic
(George et. al., 2012). As Mangaliso (2001:34) concludes,
by acknowledging this, global management discourse
can evolve more holistic and inclusive theories of
management practices.
In this conceptual study, the evolution of management in
Nigeria covers two major spheres of attention: the

Economics and Management Research Projects: An International Journal, 5(1), 1:9

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epistemological evolution of Management thoughts in

Nigeria and the ontological evolution of Management
practices in Nigeria. Management studies have been
carried out by indigenous researchers for the quest of
universally acceptable management theories. These have
become challenging because some considered
management as a new phenomenon in the 19th century
(Redding, 2002).
Management practice is not something novel. It has been
practised in the ancient and earlier modern world. In the
pre-colonial era, dating back 3000 BC, there were no
large industrial firms. However, societies were
organized, led and managed in all spheres of lives
socially, educationally, politically, militarily and
economically (Blun & Jones 1997).
While other advanced nations can trace the evolution of
management thoughts since 5000 years BC, the earliest
record of management practice in Nigeria was the Nok
Culture in 200AD. Therefore, it is necessary to
conceptually explore the evolutionary management
trends in the Europe, America and Asia before examining
that of Africa, especially Nigeria, and so we will review
the relevant literature in the next section.
2. Evolution Management Thoughts: Western
The ideal starting point for this conceptual study is to
explore the evolution of the western historical concept of
management. This is necessary as most management
terms and disciplines, as we know them today,
originated from the West. The period between 1700 and
witnessed the industrial revolution and the writings of
the classical economists. The emergence of the factory
system during this period showed the importance of

managerial functions in a novel way (Cole, 1999). As

factories and jobs increased and a distinctive work
culture began to take shape, appropriate management
became imperative.
This revolution brought along with it new questions and
challenges to which adequate attention was required. To
find appropriate solutions to these problems, people
began to recognise management as a separate field of
study. The scientific management, being the first
thought, initiated the systematic analyses of managerial
aspect of organizations for practical application in the
day to day running of organizations (Cole 1999; DuBrin,
2006; Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin ,2009).
According to Smith (2002), the Modern Management
theories have been traced back to the 1900 (Scientific
1950(Systems Theory); 1970s (Contingency Theory);
1980s (Total Quality Management); 1990 (Learning
Organization); and 2000s (Reengineering). Today, the
emergence of the information revolution and networking
has shifted the paradigm focus of managers and
academics to Knowledge Management, Team Work and
the IMP (Networking) approach (Smith C., 2003). They
have evolved with time to suit the needs of organizations
and the environments they operate in. This is shown in
the Fig. 1, Fig. 2 and Fig. 3below.
In Nigeria, management thoughts and practices have
evolved differently starting from the pre-colonial period
with management by communality, and then
paternalistic, to scientific method of management that
reflects of the colonial influences. The next section will
examine the evolution of management philosophy in
Nigeria and the factors affecting it.

Fig 1 - Colonization; Socio-economic thoughts; Technological development and Culture

Maximizing &
Based Theory



Resources Based


Based Theory

Based Theory

Source: Authors (2014)

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Fig. 2 - Factors involved in the management evolution in Nigeria


Evolution of Management
Thought in Nigeria

Socio-economic Thoughts
Source: Authors (2014)

3. Management Philosophy and Practice in Nigeria

Nigeria is a sub Saharan country located in the Gulf of
Guinea in West Africa and shares borders with
Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Republic of Benin. It is
Africas most populous nation and the tenth largest
country in the world, with population of about 149
million and total land area of 356,669 square miles
(Fashoyin, 2005). Nigeria came into existence as a result
of the amalgamation of 1914 that joined the North and
South together to form Nigeria and it secured her
independence in the year 1960 from Britain.
The Nigerian tribes and other early farming and hunting
societies appear to have lived first in small nomadic
kinship groups that tended to be cooperative and
relatively egalitarian. As time passed, the Nigerian tribes
settled into hierarchically organized communities
presided over by kings and stratified by age, gender and
wealth that were signified by ownership of livestock. In
these communities, traditional management was based
on ascribed power passed on through patrilineal
inheritance. Age was explicitly associated with seniority
and accumulated wisdom in the paternalistic setting
(Yesufu, 1982).
4. Methodology
The paper is purely conceptual as it relies on the
writings of published articles and texts for secondary
data. It applied a qualitative research design following
the tradition of (George et. al. 2012).
5. Factors influencing the Evolution of Management
Thoughts and Practice in Nigeria
The evolution of management thoughts and practice in
Nigeria has been shaped by the following four factors:
Socio-economic thoughts;
Technological development;

Colonization and
Management thoughts





Colonization, also known as imperialism is the

aggressive subjugation of a country or people by the
other. The evolution of management thoughts in Nigeria
has been influenced by the developments in the post
industrial revolution era in Europe and America. The
search for new markets for the mass production during
the period led to the invasion of nations and
communities, thus colonialism (Kamoche, 1992).
Just like most other countries in Africa, Nigeria came
under effective colonization around the 19th century.
The British, having established a foothold in the areas
surrounding the River Niger with extensive trading and
Christianization, began actively putting in place formal
structures of colonization by way of government
This started first with Lagos in 1861. By 1914, the
Colony of Lagos and the Protectorates of Southern and
consolidated into an adjacent geo-political entity
christened Nigeria. Britain established parallel
administrative bureaucracies (in the North, South and
Lagos colony) with which colonial companies exploited
the vast natural resources of the continent, and Nigeria
Western management culture has evolved through
(mercantilism), industrialization, scientific management,
post-modernism. African management culture appears
to be following the footsteps of the evolutionary
developments in Western management practices
(Kamoche, 1992), and therefore Nigerian firms look up
to the West for management ideologies and practices,
and also for criteria of success.

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Fig. 3 -Management Theory Evolution in the Europe and America (1900-2000)




Human Resource




& Information


Communication &


Technology &

Team Work and

IMP approach


Source: Adapted from DuBrin, (2006: 14)

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5.2. The Influence of Culture on Management

Practices and Thoughts
Culture has long been considered one of the significant
determinants for organizational behaviour and
managerial practice (Hofstede, 1980; Peng 2001; George,
et al., 2012; Triandis, 1995). Today, it is crucial to
understand the diversity of culture and how it impacts
on the evolution of management theories and practices.
There is an abundance of literature on the concept of
culture and cross-cultural study of organizational
behaviour and managerial practice.
Culture is a complex set of norms, values, assumptions,
attitudes, and beliefs that are the features of a particular
group (Lytle et al., 1995). Maintained that culture is the
group's strategy for survival and it constitutes the
successful attempt to adapt to the external environment.
It is generally accepted that culture represents software
of mind (Hofstede, 1991:21) rather than hardware.
In Nigeria, management has been practised using the
cooperative and communal model. This is similar to the
concept of Communality (Eze, 1995; Inyang, 2008). The
Communality is a major feature of the African culture.
Some Nigeria cultural dimensions are likely to contradict
western managerial practices (Oghojafor, George
&Owoyemi, 2012).
A deep respect for the elderly is presumably due to oral
traditions where age and wisdom are closely related; and
relationships between different age groups are markedly
gerontocratic and generally paternalistic (Linquist&
Adolph, 1996; George et. al.,2012). Consequently, the
elderly, by the virtue of their wisdom, are expected to
theorize for the younger ones to follow. The extended
family serves as the building block for any organization;
and tolerance and forgiveness indicates the importance
of interpersonal relations over individual achievements.
To show the influence of culture on theoretical
development, Hofstede (2001) suggests that two
dimensions of culture are particularly important: (1)
importance of religion and (2) traditional wisdom. The
first dimension supports the relevance of ones
relationship with a higher power. The second dimension
emphasizes the importance of being hospitable,
discussing decisions rather than imposing them on
others, and that wisdom comes from experience and
time, not education (Hofstede, 2001). These two cultural
dimensions clarify the critical role of traditionalism in
many aspects of life in Nigeria.
In Nigerian organizations, the importance of clan or
ethnic interests over individual needs is manifested in
different ways. African managers feel duty bound to
satisfy social and even economic needs of their relatives
(Dia, 1994). The distribution of scarce resources to clan
and ethnic affiliates are natural responsibilities of
management (Blunt & Jones, 1997).
With this paternalistic orientation, managers bestow
favours, and expect and receive obeisance or reverence.
This phenomenon offers a unique perspective on ingroup collectivism and reflects a response to collective
need rather than individual performance (George et. al,

Attempts have been made to identify core values of

African managers, especially Nigerians. Mbigi (2002)
identifies five core values: (1) respect for the dignity of
others, (2)group solidarity, (3) teamwork, (4) service to
others, and (5) the spirit of harmony and
interdependence. The last dimension has been labelled
the spirit of communality, that is, Ubutu (Mangaliso,
2001; Mbigi, 1997).
Nigeria achieved independence in 1960 but has since
been plagued by unequal distribution of wealth and
ineffective, often corrupt governments that inherited and
copied the managerial style of the West totally. Today,
gratitude is being substituted for corruption;
individualism is fast been substituted for our cherished
communalism; and our paternalistic practices (Yesufu,
1982) are now being replaced with vulnerability
5.3. Socio-economic thoughts
The socio-economic philosophies of Nigerians are often
seen as consensus rather than centralized, bureaucratic,
and authoritarian (Kiggundu, 1989). Indigenous Nigerian
institutions are seen in the same light as the chief is seen
through Western eyes as an autocrat and his institutions
reflect this high power distance. This is a view contested
by Ayittey (1991) who describes many African societies
chiefs as ruling by consensus. Institutions (including the
firm) were imposed on Nigerian communities by the
colonial powers, and remain today largely disconnected
from these communities (Inyang, 2008).
5.4 Management Philosophy and Practice in Nigeria:
Pre-Colonial Era
People have lived in what is now known as Nigeria since
at least 9000 BC, and evidence indicates that since at
least 5000 BC some of them have practised management
through settled agriculture. With crude technology,
Kingdoms emerged in the drier, northern savannah,
prospering from trade ties with North Africa. At roughly
the same time, the wetter, southern forested areas
yielded city-states and looser federations sustained by
agriculture and coastal trade (Fashoyin, 2005).
The pre-colonial management style in Nigeria is deeply
entrenched in their beliefs and traditions (Fashoyin,
2005). The major managerial philosophy then was
communalism. Communality is the process of collectively
solving a managerial problem by being your brothers
keeper which was practised in trades and agricultural
Nigeria is a multi-cultural nation embedded with diverse
colonialism, Nigerians had indigenous managerial
principles of communality, father-figure, hard work,
clan-loyalty, team-work and integrity (Inyang, 2008).
These Principles were entrenched in the social and
business conduct of the pre-colonial empires (Inyang,
2008). Coexistence among ethnic groups in Nigeria was
disrupted by commercial slave trade of the 18th century

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which interrupted the intellectual capacity for Nigeria to

develop indigenous management theory.
Agriculture, which was mostly subsistence, was well
organized with communal assistance from each farm to
another farm. Members of the community were usually
rewarded with the harvests and inter-married as show
of gratitude (George, 2012).These managerial systems
changed radically with the arrival of Europeans in the
late 15th century, the rise of the slave trade from the
16th through the 19th century, and formal colonization
by Britain at the end of 19th century.
The colonial era began in the late 19th century, when
Britain consolidated its rule over Nigeria. In 1914, the
British merged the northern and southern protectorates
into a single state called the Colony and Protectorate of
Nigeria. Nigeria became independent of British rule in
1960. The next section examines the indirect rule
management practice of the colonial period.
6. Colonial Management Philosophy: The Indirect
Britain governed Nigeria via indirect rule, a system in
which native leaders continued to rule their traditional
lands so long as they collected taxes and performed
other duties ensuring British prosperity. Uncooperative
or ineffective leaders were easily replaced by others who
were more compliant or competent, and usually more
than willing to enjoy the perks of government. Britain
was thus saved the huge economic and political cost of
running and militarily securing a day-to-day government
using the indirect rule.
Indirect rule operated relatively smoothly in the north,
where the British worked with the Fulani aristocracy,
who had long governed the Sokoto caliphate and who
were able to administer traditional Islamic law alongside
British civil law.
In the south, however, traditions were less
accommodating. In Yorubaland, indirect rule disrupted
historical checks and balances, increasing the power of
some chiefs at the expense of others. Moreover, although
the Yoruba kings had long been powerful, few had
collected taxes, and citizens resisted their right to do so
under British mandate.
In the southeast, particularly in Igboland, many of the
societies had never had chiefs or for that matter
organized states. Consequently, the chiefs appointed by
Britain received little or no respect.
7. Management thoughts and philosophy: Post
colonial and Modern
After independence from the colonial master in 1960, the
country was plunged into ethnic strife and military
dictatorship. However, these ethnic groups gave the
country a rich culture and the ability to develop
managerial ideas and practice towards nation building.
The culture has given birth to various managerial
philosophies including:
Patrimonial management philosophy


Patronage philosophy
Indigenous Ecological philosophy
Balance management philosophy
Communal Management Practice
Acculturation Practice

a. Patrimonial management philosophy

Management culture varies greatly between urban and
rural areas, across various ethnic and religious borders,
and with levels of education. Nigeria is mostly a
patriarch society where men are in charge of major
managerial roles.
According to Dia (1996:37), the Nigerian society
functions in a highly patriarchal fashion, with men
exerting broad control over the lives of women, who are
typically less educated and have limited access to wealth
and social services. The exceptions are in some southern
states, where women are more active in trade and exert
considerable political influence. Unfortunately, Nigeria
has no state-supported social welfare system. Instead,
most people rely on their extended families in difficult
times and in old age.
b. Communal Management Practice
Communality is the basic management philosophy that
governs existence and social relations in Nigeria
(Fashoyin, 2005). It reflects a family atmosphere,
philosophical affinity and kinship among and between
indigenous people of Africa. While some views of
collectivism are associated with here and now
relationships, communality is anchored in Nigeria
history and includes present and future obligations to
the social entity. Social life has traditionally revolved
around communal ceremonies: weddings, infants
naming ceremonies and public performances associated
with cultural and religious holidays.
c. Patronage philosophy
Most of the elite maintain power through networks of
patronage: They secure and distribute labour, and
receive political support in return. The system allows for
some redistribution of income because patrons often pay
for things such as school fees and marriage costs for
relatives, community development, and charity work.
Wealth and power are distributed very unevenly in
Nigerian society. The great majority of Nigerians,
preoccupied with daily struggles to earn a living, have
few material possessions and little chance of improving
their lot. Meanwhile, chiefs, rich merchants, politicians,
and high-ranking civil servants often accumulate and
flaunt massive wealth, which to a degree is expected and
accepted in Nigerian society.
d. Balance management
Balance management is a managerial approach of
ensuring equity among all stakeholders in an institution
by managers. In an effort to ensure equality and justice

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among all ethnic groups in the country, the balance

philosophy was applied by moving the countrys political
capital to Abuja. The political leadership moved from
Lagos to Abuja in 1991 in the hope of creating a national
capital where none of the countrys ethnic groups would
be dominant. This management thought is also the basis
for the much criticized Federal Character principle which
most times has sacrificed merit on the altar of catchment
areas. Under this arrangement, a well-qualified applicant
to public institution from the Southern part of the
country could be rejected for an unqualified candidate
from the Northern region due to the need to ensure
equal representation of all regions.
e. Autocratic Political Management Philosophy
Between 1966 and 1999, the political philosophy was
autocratic and dictatorship as Nigeria experienced
frequent coups and long periods of military rule after
which a democratic civilian government was established.
f. Indigenous Ecological Philosophy
Nigeria used to be an agricultural economy but now
depends almost entirely on the production of petroleum,
which lies in large reserves below the Niger Delta. In
many parts of the country, farmers have practiced
environmental protection for centuries. Their techniques
include planting several different crops in a single field
at once to cover the ground more evenly and thereby
reduce erosion and increase fertility; planting and
maintaining farmland trees and hedgerows to reduce
erosion; applying manure to farmland to maintain soil
fertility; and, in certain areas such as the Jos Plateau,
terracing steep slopes.
g. Acculturation Principle
Nigerias three largest ethnic groupsthe Hausa-Fulani,
Yoruba, and Igborepresent about 70 percent of the
population. The Hausa, concentrated in the far north and
in the neighbouring Republic of Niger, are the largest of
Nigerias ethnic nations. Many people of non-Hausa
origin have become assimilated into the Hausa nation
through intermarriage and acculturation. One such
group is the Fulani, traditionally a semi-nomadic
livestock-herding people. Many Fulani have settled in
Hausa cities and towns and have become part of the
Hausa community.
The Yoruba of south-western Nigeria incorporate seven
subgroupsthe Egba, Ekiti, Ife, Ijebu, Kabba, Ondo, and
Oyoeach identified with a particular paramount chief
and city. The oni of Ife is the spiritual head of the Yoruba.
The advisory council are selected as a check and balance
to the Obas power. The majority of Yoruba are farmers
or traders who live in large cities of pre-colonial origin.
The Igbo of south eastern Nigeria traditionally live in
small, independent villages, each with an elected council
rather than a chief. Such democratic institutions
notwithstanding, Igbo society is highly stratified along
lines of wealth, achievement, and social rank.

Overcrowding and degraded soil have forced many Igbo

to migrate to nearby cities and other parts of Nigeria.
h. Joint Venture Management Practice
In the 1960s and 1970s, the petroleum industry
developed, prompting greatly increased export earnings
and allowing massive investments in industry,
agriculture, infrastructure, and social services. Many of
these large investments, often joint ventures with
private corporations, were signed by the Nigeria
Government. In an attempt to broaden Nigerias
industrial base, the government has invested heavily in
joint ventures with private companies since the early
The largest such project is the integrated steel complex
at Ajaokuta, built in 1983 at a cost of $4 billion which
today is nearly moribund. In the mid-1990s the
government introduced a series of reforms, including an
allowance for greater foreign ownership in Nigerian
industries, a loosening of controls on foreign exchange,
and the establishment of an export-processing zone at
i. Apprenticeship Practice
Smaller-scale manufacturing businesses engage in
weaving, leather making, pottery making, and
woodcarving. The smaller industries are often organized
in craft guilds involving particular families, who pass
skills from generation to generation.
Pre-independence Nigeria, its large population
developmenta few tanneries and oil-crushing mills
that processed raw materials for export. During the
1950s and 1960s a few factories, including the first
textile mills and food-processing plants, opened to serve
During the 1970s and early 1980s industrial production
increased rapidly, principally in Lagos, Kaduna, Kano,
and Port Harcourt. Factories also appeared in smaller,
peripheral cities such as Calabar, Bauchi, Katsina, Akure,
and Jebba, due largely to government policies
encouraging decentralization.
8. Conclusion
This paper has examined the evolution of management
thoughts and practices in Nigeria and has posited that it
has been greatly influenced by colonialism, culture,
thoughts. It established that management is a
phenomenon known to Nigerians during the pre-colonial
era. Nigerians managed by communality, consensus and
unanimity (Inyang, 2004). It equally highlighted the
indirect rule of the colonial period, which had much
success in the Northern part than the South. The paper
discussed the post-colonial and modern managerial
thoughts which were a reflection of the integration of the
western model of organizations and the traditional
cultural values of communality.

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In conclusion, the evolution of management thoughts in

Nigerian has developed differently from that of
European and America as a result of the impact of
culture. A hybrid model of the Nigerian and Westernrelated management philosophies can be extremely

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